Sen. Josh Hawley says he’ll introduce legislation to ban TikTok nationwide

A similar bill was introduced by other lawmakers in the House and the Senate in the last Congress, but it was not considered in either chamber.

By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has announced he plans to introduce legislation Wednesday that would ban the popular social media app TikTok in the U.S.

In a tweet Tuesday, Hawley said that TikTok is “China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives,” adding: “It threatens our children’s privacy as well as their mental health. Last month Congress banned it on all government devices. Now I will introduce legislation to ban it nationwide.”

Hawley said in a separate tweet that he plans to introduce the measure Wednesday.

“What my bill does is it specifically goes after TikTok — it bans it. It doesn’t ban any other app, but it also requires a comprehensive report to Congress on the national security threat” the app poses and its relationship to the Chinese Communist Party, Hawley told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But listen, I welcome all efforts to ban TikTok, of whatever form it takes.”

While the bill isn’t likely to pass through the divided Congress, a separate measure to ban TikTok on some government devices, wrapped into the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, has already been enacted. The provision, which President Joe Biden signed into law last month, banned the app and other applications by TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, on all executive branch devices. It didn’t, however, apply to members of Congress and their staffs.

Late last month, Catherine L. Szpindor, the chief administrative officer of the House, ordered lawmakers and staffers to delete TikTok from any House-issued mobile phones and prohibited them from downloading it on such devices.

The directive didn’t apply to the Senate, where some members, including Marco Rubio, R-Fla., had also called for the app to be completely banned in the U.S.

Rubio last month introduced a Senate bill to ban TikTok in the U.S., and a companion measure was introduced in the House by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.

The lawmakers said at the time that their bill aimed to protect Americans from foreign adversaries who might use certain social media to surveil Americans, learn sensitive data about them and spread influence campaigns or propaganda.

Under that measure, the president could impose sanctions on TikTok and other social media companies to prevent commercial operation in the U.S. The bill would have to be reintroduced in the current Congress.

After the November midterm elections, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned lawmakers that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control users’ devices for influence or espionage purposes.

Several states have also taken steps to prohibit the use of TikTok on government devices. In recent months, many public universities have restricted access to TikTok on school computers, mobile phones and Wi-Fi in accordance with executive orders in those states banning the app on government-owned devices and networks.